After reaching the Final Four for the first time since 2009 this weekend, Villanova (33-5) has a tough road ahead in Houston. The Wildcats must beat No. 2 Oklahoma (29-7) in the semifinal and, potentially, No. 1 North Carolina (32-6) in the final.
And yet, Jay Wright should be encouraged. Yes, if his Wildcats could beat Kansas – which they did in the Elite Eight, 64-59 – they can beat anybody.
“That was the game of the weekend,” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Gary Parrish said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Back and forth, back and forth, Big 12 champion, Big East champion. Both of them looked like a team that’s capable of winning the national championship. Just the way the bracket broke, only one of them would be able to get to the Final Four. But I think the most impressive thing that Villanova did – besides take that counter-punch from Kansas and respond well – (was win without playing their best). They had gotten to the Elite Eight by shooting 53 percent from three-point range. They were making shots at an incredible rate. It’s easy to win when you do that. It’s a little more difficult to win when you go 4-of-18 from three-point range. They didn’t shoot the ball well against the Jayhawks on Saturday and yet they still won.
“To me, that would be the most encouraging thing if I were Jay Wright,” Parrish continued. “Jay could look at his team through three games of the tournament and say, ‘Hey, we’re making shots. If we keep shooting 53 percent from three, we’ll be national champions.’ And he’s right, but let’s be honest: You’re not going to keep doing that. That’s so out of character for you. But once you prove you can beat what most people thought was the best team in the country when you didn’t shoot well – you just beat them in other areas of the game – well, that suggests to me you can get by without your best against anybody, and that is typically how you have to go win an NCAA Tournament.”
But can Nova beat Buddy Hield and Oklahoma and Brice Johnson and North Carolina? Can the Cats win their first national title since 1985?
“I would be genuinely surprised if Carolina isn’t playing (in the national championship),” Parrish said. “The other game is a toss-up. Oklahoma/Villanova, there’s nothing surprising that can go down right there. It’s a complete toss-up basketball game. And the winner of that, is it capable of beating Carolina? Yes. But the winner of that will be an underdog to North Carolina. So if I had to pick, I’d take the Tar Heels to cut net, but I think in a one-game situation, playing either Villanova or Oklahoma, it could go down a variety of ways.”